Dahlia is a diverse annual flower, from huge, dinner-plate-size blooms to midget pompoms only two inches in diameter.
Description: Dahlias grow from one to five feet tall. Flowers come in every color except blue, and the form is varied: peony-like; anemone-flowered; singles; shaggy mops; formal, ball-shaped; and twisted, curled petals. The flowers are carried on long stems above the erect plants. The American Dahlia Society has classified dahlias by both type and size. There are 12 different flower types: single, anemone-flowered, collarette, peony-flowered, formal decorative, informal decorative, ball, pompon, incurved cactus, straight cactus, semi-cactus, and orchid-flowered.
How to grow: Dahlias are sun lovers and need air circulation around them. Soil should be fertile, high in organic matter, and moist but well-drained. Plant the tubers so that the eye is two to three inches below ground level. Do not plant container-grown dahlias any deeper than the level they were growing in their pot. Space tall varieties 12 to 18 inches apart, reducing the spacing for dwarf plants to as little as 8 inches. Dahlias are not cold-hardy but can live for years if the roots are dug and saved.
Propagation: Most of the large-flowered varieties are grown from tuberous roots available at garden centers or specialist growers. At the end of a summer's growing season, dig clumps of tubers and store in a cool but frost-free location until spring. Sow dahlia seeds four to six weeks prior to planting out at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Germination will take 5 to 14 days.
Uses: Taller dahlia varieties can be planted as a hedge with shorter flowers growing in front of them. Groups of three plants can be effective at the back of the border or in the center of large island beds. You can also feature compact varieties in the front of beds and borders.
Related varieties: There are hundreds of named varieties in every style and color; consult your garden center, specialist catalogs, or a specialist grower. Seed-grown varieties are available as started plants or can be grown from seeds at home. Diablo is a compact variety that grows up to 15 inches tall and wide. Its bronze foliage contrasts with its many different flower colors. Double Pompom has perfectly round, two-inch flowers on plants two feet tall.
Scientific name: Dahlia hybrids
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